Greenpeace and Fridays For Future demand clarification from OMV on indications of surveillance of activists by investigative firms
Vienna, April 14, 2021 - Following a report in the magazine "Dossier", Fridays For Future Austria and Greenpeace Austria are urgently warning against the increasingly rampant, systematic surveillance of civil society by the oil and gas industry. Information received by the organizations raises specific questions about the cooperation of the Austrian oil and gas company OMV under leadership of CEO Rainer Seele with dubious investigative firms that specialize in the systematic surveillance of climate activists
These are companies like the international espionage company "Welund". Welund is touted internally by OMV as a "targeted activism intelligence provider", i.e. a specialist in monitoring activists, providing the companies employees with daily information on global activist events and also compiling unspecified "OMV-specific" information. Welund, founded by a former British MI6 secret agent, is known to do business with large corporations' fear of civil society engagement. Environmental movements, in particular, are staged as "existential threats" to oil and gas clients. Greenpeace and Fridays For Future demand the immediate disclosure of all contracts with investigative companies and the handing over of all collected information on activists. A sustainable reorientation of OMV can only take place by turning away from the climate-damaging oil and gas business, sham solutions such as the Borealis misinvestment are no longer sufficient, the environmentalists make clear.
"Especially for us young activists, it is frightening to hear that a powerful corporation like OMV is working with shady investigative specialists, seemingly to monitor the environmental movement. Companies like Welund make a living out of staging peaceful protests like our school strikes and young people who stand up for a good future for all of us as an existential threat and monitoring them on behalf of the oil industry", Aaron Wölfling of Fridays For Future Austria is shocked by the indications of the cooperation of the partly state-owned OMV with surveillance specialists. Against this background, Greenpeace sees a tipping point for the management level of the corporation and demands consequences: "It is decidedly going too far when OMV hires dubious spy companies to monitor climate protectors. Instead of concentrating on spying on civil society, Rainer Seele should have transformed OMV into a sustainable, climate-friendly group with a genuine change in strategy. After his adherence to the anachronistic oil course, the economic and ecological Borealis belly-flop, and now this stain, it is clear that the Seele era is over. We demand the overdue resignation of Rainer Seele and a complete clarification of the grievances," clarifies Alexander Egit, Managing Director of Greenpeace CEE.
At the beginning of April, the environmental and climate protectors demanded that OMV CEO Rainer Seele take a stand on the indications of surveillance of the environmental movement. The organizations demanded the disclosure of all contracts with investigative companies for the purpose of monitoring civil society and full transparency regarding collected data. OMV did not comply with this demand for full transparency but instead sought refuge in generic compliance rules in its response letter, citing the confidentiality of contract relationships. "We demand a complete clarification of these indications. OMV must disclose all contracts with spy companies and hand over all collected information on activists immediately and in full. OMV must finally be put on a sustainable course," demand Greenpeace and Fridays For Future Austria together. The environmentalists also appeal to those politically responsible, specifically Austrias Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler and the responsible Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, to protect civil society from such shady surveillance methods by partly state-owned corporations.
A detailed research on the surveillance of environmental activists and the current case of OMV's cooperation with the investigative specialist Welund can be found here in German: